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Doug Miller: Elected officials need to insist every lawful vote cast be counted | COMMENTARY

Presidential administrations, each flawed in their own way, have come and gone. Each has been guilty of sins of omission and commission, and some have even perpetrated criminal acts. Until now, however, all of them have come and gone without the threat of violence so common to regime changes in other parts of the world.

Now the very existence of the United States of America as a democratic republic can no longer be taken for granted.

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President Donald Trump has, without evidence, publicly alleged widespread fraud in the mail-in voting employed by states — in some cases for many years — and argued that ballots cast by mail in this pandemic-plagued election season should be discarded. He has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power should he lose the election, while calling upon his supporters to intimidate voters at polling places and implying that his followers will keep him in office by force should the voters choose to remove him. At the very least, legal maneuvers challenging the validity of ballots appear likely.

Each of us has always borne a measure of responsibility to our democracy that goes beyond voting, but our duty as citizens has now become both weightier and clearer. We must commit to resisting a possible attempt by Trump and his allies to retain — or even consolidate — power through undemocratic means, and convince our elected representatives to do the same.

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We must be prepared to thwart a coup d’état.

“Fortunately,” writes sociologist and activist George Lakey, “we needn’t agree that a Trump coup attempt is likely in order to prepare for the possibility. We can think of it like insuring a house, not because it’s likely to catch on fire but ‘just in case.’

“Actually, a plan against a coup is better than insurance, as it can reduce the chance that we’ll face a coup attempt. The better prepared we are to counter it, the more likely that wiser heads in the Trump camp will realize that a coup is futile, and not attempt it.”

Also, as Lakey notes, researchers have documented many instances in places including Russia, Bolivia, France and Venezuela when nonviolent resistance has caused coup attempts to fail. Often in such cases, the dissidents didn’t have the kind of lead time for planning and organization that we’ve got.

A nonpartisan coalition of civic groups and faith-based organizations in our state, called Count Every Vote! Maryland (counteveryvotemd.org), in concert with the nationwide efforts of the Choose Democracy organization, is calling upon elected officials to insist that every vote cast — whether by mail, early voting or on Election Day — be counted in accordance with state law.

Each of us must contact our representatives at the federal, state and local levels and urge them to publicly commit to demanding that all lawful ballots be counted before they accept any election result as legitimate, using any means at their disposal to contest any election result that does not include the counting of all lawful votes, and insisting on a peaceful transfer of power if a complete and legal vote count requires it.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s pledge to the above could prove especially crucial. Not only can he take steps to ensure a complete count of lawful votes cast in Maryland, but as a leading figure in the Republican Party nationally, he can wield great influence in convincing GOP officials in other states to do the same.

Republican as well as Democratic legislators at the state and federal levels must add their voices, too. Even local officeholders have a role to play in protecting the nation’s democratic process. Without their general acquiescence, an illegitimate federal regime would find it difficult to function.

We, the people, must hold all of our elected officials to account. We cannot simply roll over and let democracy die, and we cannot allow those we’ve put in office to let it do so either.

The writer is a Columbia resident and the secretary of Get Money Out-Maryland.

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